Success is no accident [by Matt Baker]
This is what theatre is all about; stories through unique perspectives. There are many articles about Dunedinite Nick Chisholm, from Men’s Health and the British Medical Journal, to The Mirror and 20/20, however, while they each come from their own journalistic angle, they simply do not have the same opportunity to cover the full emotional spectrum of events the way theatre can. Which is where Renee Lyons comes in. Coming across the story (by fate?) on the Internet, and realising she knew Nick’s brother, Matt, was all the inspiration the actress needed to develop her one-woman show, Nick: An Accidental Hero, with the help of Sophie Roberts and director Abigail Greenwood.
The result is a testament to Lyons’ abilities as an actress, as she not only creates her characters with complete vocal and physical particularisations, but also is able to fully encompass their emotionality,whether it is utter heartbreak, or absolute love. That being said, this is not a sad show. It is an absolute laugh-out-loud comedy. There are, however, three particular gem-like moments, which Lyons treats with utter reverence, which one simply cannot avoid being affected by.
Nick Chisholm has Locked-in syndrome, but this is not a play about a man with a disability. It’s a play about a man and the people in his life. The accident that resulted in his current state is simply a catalyst, an event that is circumnavigated to illustrate the finer points of the human condition. I say finer points, because Lyons presents us with how the characters deal with the situation, as opposed to focusing on the ‘what’ of the situation. While the latter could easily result in forced melodrama, the former gives us a proper insight into the people involved in Nick’s life, and, consequently, of Nick himself. Said characters include Nick’s mother Joyce, his best friend Boyd, his other best friend Liam, his now wife Nicola, and Soo Young Kim, an hilarious fictional Korean orderly cleverly used as a narrative device.
Jane Hakaria’s set design is simple, and the approximately four-by-four metre black tarpaulin and single chair is all Lyons needs to take us on an incredibly full journey. Lighting design, also by Hakaria, is used well, particularly in its more stylised moments, drawing attention to and focusing on particular aspects of Nick’s world. Unfortunately, Alistair Deverick’s sound design is lost in the void of superfluous space in The Basement main stage.
Following a season at BATS, Auckland’s opening night audience was privileged enough to have both Nick and Nicola in attendance with them. Hearing them react throughout the show and seeing them use the eye-board afterwards was, quite simply, beautiful, and a testament to how in tune they are with each other.
Handpicked by international scouts to perform in the Edinburgh festival, this revival of the show is also functioning as a fundraiser for Lyons and operator Ruby Reihana-Wilson to make the endeavour. I donated without hesitation. Not only is this a great New Zealand show with appeal on an international scale, it is great New Zealand story.
If you would like to support Renee and Ruby taking this show to Edinburgh, all donations big or small are gratefully accepted by bank transfer to: 02-0144-0104175-00 R L Lyons
Nick: An Accidental Hero produced by Sam Shore is presented by The Basement Trust & Renee Lyons and plays at The Basement until July 13. Details see iticket